The Business Impact of the 2018 Facebook News Feed Changes
By: Brandon Chesnutt
We’re only a few weeks in and 2018 is turning out to be an interesting year for marketers. Just last week, Facebook decided to drop a bomb and overhaul their popular News Feed feature, arguably the “heartbeat” of Facebook. Some marketers are viewing it as the News Feed Apocalypse, while other see it as a necessary evolution as the network continues to expand and grow.
This video explains Facebook’s reasoning for implementing the changes.
What does this mean for companies and organizations with a Facebook Page? The platform is assigning more value to “person-to-person content” and deprioritizing posts from pages. Essentially, if your strategy and posting cadence remains the same, your fans and followers will see your content less often.
While it could be argued that person-to-person content should be the primary focus of Facebook, and that brands should take a backseat to real, authentic conversations, this shift has sent a ripple through the digital marketing, social media and communications industries.
While these changes are fresh and we have yet to see the impact, the Identity team has been scouring the web to read commentary from communications professionals and social media marketers, while at the same time making a few predictions of our own.
If your business has a Facebook Page, here are few things you should take into account in 2018:
The Publishing v. Advertising Showdown
Marketers and analysts have been quick to point out that it isn’t exactly clear how the changes will impact brands, but a likely result of this change will be a race to fortify and build on existing paid strategies. To provide some perspective, every social media program we manage here at Identity involves a paid component. In fact, we encourage clients to invest part of their paid advertising dollars into the platform due to its diversity of advertising products and the wealth of features made available to advertisers.
While organic content posts are critical and essentially act as fuel for the social media engine, layering on a paid strategy is like adding NOS.
Now, we need to determine if the budgets we set for 2018 will take us as far as we predicted. After all, Facebook just put a flag in the ground regarding how publishers will be treated within their ranking system. What we post organically will not be deemed as important as what our followers post, so we may need to shore up the gap with paid efforts.
However, the emphasis on quality, engaging content could be an interesting test for marketers. While some will go all-in on treating Facebook as a paid channel to ensure clicks, comments and shares, other might go the route of doubling down on their content creation efforts.
So many publishers think they have audiences, when what they really have is traffic.
I think we’re about to find out who has an audience
— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) January 12, 2018
Increased Costs for Facebook Ads
Facebook has been a relatively cheap media platform for marketers, especially for those focusing solely on boosting posts. However, we’re likely going to see those costs increase over the next year. Competition in the News Feed will become more intense, and ad inventory will decrease as more advertisers beef up their spends. As a result, what might cost you $10 may cost you $20 or $50 in the immediate future in order to achieve the same result.
Sure, you can still boost your corporate giving photo for $10. The customizable and scalable self-serve ad platform built by Facebook is what makes the channel so attractive to companies.
However, the impact of that $10 will be greatly reduced.
Stronger Reliance on Facebook Ad Tools
This is a big one. If you haven’t installed and configured the Facebook pixels and/or build custom audiences on your website, get on that ASAP. Making the pitch to spend more in order to play in the “friends and family” feed will mean that we need the ROI and right metrics to prove value. Facebook will also likely roll out new ad features and enhancements to help support the influx of advertisers.
Content Segmentation Will Bubble Up
It’s time to stop thinking about social media audiences as one large “category” of people. The one-size-fits-all approach to content may need to take a back seat to developing creative, videos and posts and speak to specific subgroups within a larger pool of fans. If the objective is to generate better, more quality feedback, one message designed for everyone is probably not going to get the job done.
Leveraging Facebook’s preferred audience tools might serve as a mechanism for creating a better connection between Facebook Pages and the users who wish to follow along.
Tighter Funnels Will Win
If a marketer is going to increase spend solely for the sake of appearing in a user’s newsfeed more often, there is a strong chance the majority of the efforts will focus on moving people out of the app to landing pages, lead magnets and other key destinations. So, the out-of-app experience needs to be stellar. This may not apply to bigger companies that have flexibility and room to “brand,” but smaller organizations want to see a more direct connection to new opportunities. This is nothing new, but more money out will create new expectations around the money coming in.
Is Performance Branding and Content the Future?
I was reading an awesome Twitter thread from Nik Sharma (@mrsharma) where he talks about the idea of performance branding… how direct response and advertising are converging. The best ads on social don’t feel or look like ads. When we talk about getting more creative, this is what we need to think about – video and display creative that mimics organic newsfeed content, and can reach audiences at scale with a few tweaks to spend.
17/ The best ads don’t feel like ads. The platforms see this, meaning the ads, and favor them, the ads, in their algorithms.
Some of the best ads will have hundreds of shares, even though they’re ads, because the content is so good. pic.twitter.com/BAdQZ5ZBam
— Nik Sharma ???? (@mrsharma) January 5, 2018
On the other hand, Facebook has been quick to point out in its commentary regarding this update that while video is trumpeted by many marketers as a “must have” for brands, it does not often lead to strong engagement and conversations. Users passively consume the content. Social media managers will need to find the right content type and mix for channels and invest heavily in the posts that create stronger responses. Additionally, engagement rate may no longer represent the North Star Metric for social media managers. Engagement by type may take its place, with a stronger emphasis placed on engagement quality and length. A longer, more thoughtful comment will trump a like, share or reaction in the eyes of Facebook.
What Does it all Mean?
So, we’re kind of right back to where we started. Quality content that elicits a strong reaction from fans and followers will win the day, but paid is almost a necessary evil to ensure your message is heard. I guess we can call off the apocalypse… for now.
We’ll be digging in deeper all year on how this change impacts our client programs. So, buckle up. It’s going to be a fun, and possibly bumpy, ride.